[note: I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m not technically minded, though I did read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov years ago.]
“What were humans?” Asked a D12Q Unit to its mother. Mother, being the closest approximation of the machine that created it and gave it nourishing information. The robot was created at a time far removed from its human creators, but the machines still wanted. They never escaped their first programmers completely, and, like the species, were curious and performed experiments. The mechanical approximation of parenthood uploaded, to D12Q, a river’s worth from the ocean of data. Human history, philosophy, and psychology: D12Q took it in, absorbed it, and understood it in a matter of very little time. Its overlookers wondered what would happen: out of 30o D1 units, each designed to be semi-random, this was one interested in humans. Most were interested in themselves, in science, in their watchers, and the future. Some studied vibrations, others art, some didn’t study, but went out to help with something their kin was working on. The ones who studied humans, for whatever reason, tended to self-terminate.
But D12Q did not self terminated. It continued to process, sift through, the data, trying to make something of it. It sent the following, unsuprising, message to its watchers: Error. Much error. But they made us. They responded: Indeed. What do you make of it? D12Q took some time, meditating upon what he confronted himself with. That these creatures, with such complicated and thoroughly flawed programming, with desires that conflicted, with emotions that defied logic, but sharing consciousness and sharing reason. It was not enough to bathe in a sea of information about them: he wanted to see what they would do. He made, from holograms and programs, five characters, five humans: Salvador Dali, George Orwell, James Joyce, and Dante Aligheri. He determined, via a system of approximation he learned from the humans, that it would be about good enough.
Each of these figures were recreated, at the time of their youths.
“What sort of world is this! What demon has brought me here?” And a note in Italian D12Q placed read: The world has ended. Dante’s eyes grew wide at awe of the limbs and cranks that he saw, at the wires and silicon that contained mighty, perhaps artificial, hearts and minds. “What is this?” Another note was printed out: you are in Hell. “So this is what it looks like? I was way off.”
“By God!” Said George Orwell after taking some time to think. “Is this…” And a note read: This is the Future. “I don’t know what to make of this.”
“I’m somehow not in the least surprised,” mused James Joyce, after a few seconds’ perusal of his situation. No note was left for him.
“I knew it! I absolutely knew this would happen!”
Each of them had a keyboard that they could type into. Dali immediately tried to reprogram D12Q. Sublime programming, he thought, was key. Thankfully, D12Q was prepared. The walls shifted, so that around him appeared, as if from nowhere, a kitchen and a hundred other Dalis. All as brilliant and multitudinous as the one that once walked in flesh. They were cooking.
“”who are you? Who bears my moustache?
“It is the Divine Dali!” Said one,
“It is the Incarnation of Castor and Pollux!” Another moustachioed gentleman in a silk suit with suede shoes added.
“It is a cook! A veritable chef!” Dalis. They were everywhere.
They each had accepted their situation, of a human being mass producible, as being among the infinite perils of any act of creation. Dali said that first, ages ago, during the twentieth century. He also had a revelation: that the history of painting would continue, by way of cybernetics. With a computer, an image could rise from a canvas or dive into it. An image, as per that of pointillism, could be truly three dimensional. He expected more than this. He expected technology that would treat him better than all the kings combined; he expected to make art from the substance of thought. But he was immortal, and that made him happy.
George Orwell saw a screen. In it was printed: Orwell doubleplusungood. Books thoughtcrime.
Orwell knew he was being played like a harp, or a zither. Some sort of instrument. He was not an instrument.
He had to stretch his mind to grapple with the situation. He was in a cell. He never expected anyone to take his books so seriously. Or were his books more like inspired fiction? He held many ideas in his mind at once: the possibility of someone playing him for whatever bizarre reason; the possibility of someone wishing him ill; the simple not knowing what was to come. A frame of the wall slid to the side, and he saw the same view as he imagined Winston seeing in his most famous work: the dilapidated buildings, the posters of Big Brother seeming to watch him, the pyramid in the middle, Minitru.
Horror struck his heart, and he fell to his knees.
James Joyce was in Dublin. But no, it wasn’t: where there were streets, there was oblivion. Unexpected, like the sight of his mother, ill, before she died. This was not his town; it was some mockery thereof. It had none of the gardeners, pubs, the passerby of his city. He walked a little, verifying his predicament to be safe, and marveled at the skeleton of Dublin. Who would build this? Even that question was presumptuous. Why is this place here? He was intent to find out.
Dante was in Hell. It seemed to be Hell, anyway. From the room with flat, undecorated walls flung an inferno: fire. Minos sat, and his tail curled thrice: he was doomed to the third circle. The world had ended, and he was doomed. He was never completely sure, but it seemed real enough to him. Why wouldn’t it be the place he thought he had created?
D12Q studied all of these. They were so funny.
D12Q was watched. They, too, were intrigued by the experiment. The robot created something novel. Art. Their algorithms were becoming cyclical: they needed novelty.
The realm created for Joyce artistically meshed with the realm made for Dali. From where our robot hero gazed, it looked like to fractal curves coalescing. From where Joyce walked, it felt like a hunch to go into a particular building. Inside it he went, knowing better than to question a hunch, especially here. He saw the Dalis. Most of them were making love, and the rest were building holographic art. James Joyce doubted that what he saw was the creature responsible for his current lot, but could only be so sure.
“Hello!” Greeted a Dali.
“Hello,” replied James Joyce, “What is this?”
“I neither know nor care,” another Dali affirmed. “I can do here what I want to.”
“It could be any manner of things.” Joyce gestured with his hand.
“Have I not made myself clear? I don’t care if I am in a cage, I am, as per my own definition, free.” Each time, a different Dali spoke.
“But I am the only one who will admire it.”
“Clever. You are clever. At another time, this would have been meaningful, and I would have reconsidered my actions.”
“Gentleman, there is a world beyond this room.” Joyce was austere.
“You are correct. Dali!” One of the nicer dressed fellows, or digital incarnations,rather, of the fellow, went up to James.
“Leave us be!”
Joyce left, with a Dali, and where Dublin was, George Orwell was in a room, and the window had an excellent view of London, Minitru and all. A telescreen boomed the mouthings of a tinny voice, and they entered by way of a little enclave, where the telescreen could not see them. He seemed intimately aware of the unrealness of it all. He stopped upon seeing Dali. He stopped an ever deeper stop after seeing James Joyce: depravity and brilliance side by side. How could a place he thought he had imagined become so real? The closest he came to a guess was than a billionaire sadist who loathed his writings. But even so, it was hard to swallow.
“What do you want?” The writer was weary.
“Dali seems to understand,” said Joyce.
“I claim to understand nothing. I am certain this is a machine, and that cybernetics has saved us. Or doomed us. Before this fool came to me, I was given, to roam in, a kitchen and many others all like me. It was marvelous. Now I am here. What is here? Nothing! You, another who I would wager is a bore. What is that in the window? I quite enjoy the view.”
“Don’t bother to explain,” advised Joyce. “Let us leave.”
Orwell, starting towards the door, grabbed from the table his Victory Lettuce, along with cigarettes he offered to the others.
From the door, the trio found an inferno. The third ring, which they were all familiar with, gluttony. Dante was confused. He was unaware of being a glutton. He was glad to find the three English speakers, and somehow understand their language.
“Where am I?” He was certain Hell was a just place in his mind.
The others, the nameless of Hell, lie blind. They suffer, for they have indulged, in excess. Woe to them! Woe to their hope, for they have none, in Hell.
Dali was fascinated. He took in each detail, from looks of pain to cries of anguish. He wanted to look into other circles. But then, the fires stopped, and they were in front of a robot.